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In Memory of Dr. Ruth D. Gates

Posted on Thursday, November 8, 2018

Dr. Ruth D. Gates, director and researcher at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) at the University of Hawai'i (UH) at Mānoa, passed away on October 25, 2018.

In 2015, Dr. Gates was named ARCS Foundation Hawai’i Chapter Scientist of the Year for her groundbreaking research on coral reef resilience and recovery in the face of climate change and her commitment to graduate education.

Dr. Gates was a tireless advocate for coral reef conservation, founding the Gates Coral Lab at HIMB. Her work attracted a $4 million Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s Ocean Challenge grant and she was featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary, Chasing Coral. The focus of her most recent research was creating “super corals,” coral species occurring naturally in the ocean that could be trained to become more resilient to these harsh conditions. “Ruth was a creative thinker, brilliant researcher, inspiring mentor and riveting speaker,” said Honolulu Chapter President Patty Lee. “Her tireless advocacy for coral reefs, which supply seafood and protect coastal lands, will be greatly missed.”

The loss has been keenly felt in the academic community, with messages of remembrance shared as the news travelled.

The Gates Coral Lab posted this message remembering Dr. Gates:

“We are deeply saddened by the enormous loss of our fearless leader — an incredible beacon of hope for coral reefs that was witnessed throughout the world. We are forever grateful that she brought us together and welcomed us into her research program, the Gates Coral Lab ‘Ohana. We will continue to carry her torch, maintain her unwavering exuberance and optimism to understand, harness, and protect our invaluable coral reef ecosystems.”

In publications from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and Newsweek, fellow academics and colleagues remembered Dr. Gates and her passion for her work.

“Ruth was not only a shining star in coral research, but an indomitable spirit in every aspect of life,” said Judy Lemus, HIMB interim director and friend of Gates. “Her enthusiasm was contagious, and she absolutely loved what she did. Her loss will be felt deeply within our own community and throughout the broader research community.”

“Ruth was really a force of nature. I mean she was just an amazingly productive scientist, one of the brightest, most inquisitive minds that we had in the whole field of coral reef science. Her energy was boundless,” Mark Eakin, coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch program told the Associated Press.

Dr. Gates received numerous awards over the course of her career, including the UH President’s Emerging Leaders fellowship in 2008, the Paul Allen X-Prize Ocean Challenge to Mitigate Impacts of Ocean Acidification in 2013, the 2014 UH Board of Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research, ARCS Foundation Scientist of the Year in 2015, president of the International Society for Reef Studies 2015–2019, and 2015 Distinguished Woman Scholar by the University of Victoria, Canada.

The university created the following video remembering Dr. Gates: